After Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO on Aug. 24, graphic designer Jonathan Mak, 19, decided to make a simple illustration commemorating the tech giant.
Mak traced Jobs’ profile, added it to a black-and-white Apple logo, and posted it to Tumblr. It was largely ignored.
That changed almost instantly on Wednesday, with the news of Jobs’ passing. Within hours the illustration had become one of the most popular images on the web.
Mak’s illustration has since been re-blogged on Tumblr more than 180,000 times, collected 1,241 comments, and turned the Hong Kong Polytechnic University design student into an overnight sensation.
“I’m still overwhelmed,” Mak told the Daily Dot. “I’ve always enjoyed making things. I’ve made silly comics and newspapers for my primary school class, but those were just for fun. I didn’t really developed an awareness [of] what design was up until five or six years ago.”
Daily Dot: What was it about Jobs stepping down as CEO that inspired you to create this image?
Jonathan Mak: This event shocked me. I’ve always looked out for these sort of powerful events. I’ve done similar minimalistic designs after the tsunami struck Japan and Sept. 11. Those are similar in the sense that I was trying to transform these events into simple graphics and just hope people appreciate them. The simplicity seems to give it a somber quality. I was just sad that Steve was resigning, and I wanted to show how integral he was. He was an inseparable part. It was like Apple was missing a piece now that he’s gone.
DD: Since Jobs died, your image has been used in hundreds of news articles, blogs, and is even being reproduced on T-shirts. How does that make you feel?
JM: I know there has been lots of knock-offs by now, but I’m still positively surprised. Many people have tried to police the Internet for me and tell me about all these pirated copies. Those pirated copies do make me sad, but I try not to let them bother me too much.
DD: What does your family and friends think of your new found fame?
JM: My parents are just concerned that someone will try to take advantage of me and buy the copyright to the image or something like that. I try to comfort them and tell them that I’m very cautious of these things. I’m trying to reach out to Apple to see if they're interested in turning this into official merchandise. It would be great if they can. Someone suggested that it should be used in a fundraising effort. If we could do something like that, it would be great. My friends, they’re really nice about. They joke about how they want to steal all the bits and pieces of paper lying around my desk, because everything I own will be very valuable.
DD: Has designing always been an interest of yours?
JM: I can’t draw to save my life. I have no artistic training. My mother is a primary school teacher, and my father is a translator. They gave me a love for language, and I was actually thinking of studying it. But ultimately, language and design is all about communication, and I decided to use the visual medium to get the message across. It feels like a challenge to me.
DD: Are you a fan of Apple products?
JM: I enjoy their products but not as much as you think after seeing this now-famous tribute. I have several iPod’s and a MacBook Pro, but I’m actually a recent Mac adapter. I still own a PC. I don’t even have an iPhone. I just respect the work that Steve Jobs does.
Illustration by Jonathan Mak